08/01/2002 11:00PM

Golden Eagle cutting back

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DEL MAR, Calif. - The massive Golden Eagle Farm racing and breeding operation will undergo a downsizing in the coming months.

Four months after the death of John Mabee, his wife, Betty, said she is in the process of reducing the farm's bloodstock holdings at sales in California and Kentucky over the next six months.

Next weekend, at the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association's Del Mar Yearling Sales, Golden Eagle Farm has an eight-horse consignment.

Later this year, Betty Mabee said Golden Eagle Farm will have consignments at the Keeneland September yearling sale, the two sales at Barretts in October - the yearling sale and mixed sale - and the Keeneland breeding stock sales in November and January.

Betty Mabee emphasizes that Golden Eagle Farm is not leaving horse racing, but she says the farm must sell some of its holdings.

"I could never sell it all without a complete dispersal and that's not my ambition," she said. "We're trying to reduce the racing and breeding stock."

When asked how many horses Golden Eagle Farm has at the farm in Ramona, Calif., and in Kentucky, she replied, "I have no idea. I'll get it down to a manageable level and I'll tell you."

The band of broodmares alone is 170 horses, according to a Del Mar media guide.

Golden Eagle Farm also have a large number of weanlings, yearlings, and horses of racing age.

"The reason I'm reducing the breeding stock is, come the new year, I won't have another set of four-legged things running around," Betty Mabee said. "We're selling off quite a few broodmares in November and January. I will keep some black-type foundation mares.

"The farm stallions will stay at the farm. The Kentucky shares and seasons fluctuate. We have four mares in foal to Storm Cat. You'll probably see some of them at auction."

Golden Eagle Farm has been at the forefront of racing and breeding in recent decades. On three occasions, Golden Eagle Farm has been honored with Eclipse Awards as the nation's outstanding breeder, most recently in 1998.

Over the years, the farm has campaigned such well-known stars as Best Pal, Advancing Star, Dramatic Gold, Excellent Meeting, Event of the Year, and General Challenge. Although the stable won the $150,000 B Thoughtful Stakes at Hollywood Park in April with Favorite Funtime, Golden Eagle Farm does not have a nationally prominent horse in training.

"You think you're on top, and I've got news for you, it will go the other way," Betty Mabee said, philosophically. ""John had sold at auction many of the Grade 1 mares. We still have the families of some, but you have to make a decision to sell or keep them until they are pensioned."

Betty Mabee said Golden Eagle will continue to have an active racing stable throughout California with several trainers.

"The 2-year-olds are under orders not to be pushed and to not do more than they want to do," she said. "Most of the races right now are 5 1/2 furlongs and they need six furlongs or longer."

Later this year, General Challenge, the winner of the 1999 Pacific Classic and 2000 Santa Anita Handicap, will be put back in training. A California-bred, General Challenge has not started in nearly two years.

"He's full of muscle, and he's saying, 'I can go,'" Mabee said. "We have to bring him back easy. I don't know if he'll make it back. If he doesn't, he'll make a lovely pensioner."

General Challenge is by General Meeting, who has two yearlings in next week's sale that are part of the Golden Eagle consignment. The other six in the consignment are by Event of the Year, whose oldest foals are yearlings.

The Event of the Year yearlings include a half-sister to California champion Nostalgia's Star and a colt out of Day Jewels, a multiple stakes winner in northern California.

"We need to get him started out," Mabee said of Event of the Year. "They're pretty nice individuals. We tried to put in more, but there's only eight because they said they needed to respect the other breeders."

Even with the reduction in the racing and breeding stock, Betty Mabee says the familiar burgundy and gold silks will remain in the sport.

"I enjoy racing," she said. "I enjoy all of it. It's been part of our lives for so many years."